Discovering North America: Let’s Go To the Movies

March 5, 2012

Watching the 2012 Academy awards, I got to thinking about how much fun it is to track down movie locations when on a road trip. I think there is something so interesting about visiting the exact place where a favorite film scene was shot. All of a sudden, the movie seems to come alive as you enter the location, you can hear the characters, the sounds, the music… I guess it’s just the power of a good film, coupled with some emotional connection we have to certain productions.

While many films are shot on studio back lots and soundstages, just as many (if not more) were made in small towns, big cities,  and wide open spaces.

Road trips are often made up of many planned stops that usually involve some sort of time commitment. The beauty of visiting film locations is that most times, it’s a relatively quick, even free stop. Yet you might find that these stops resonate once you get back home, especially the next time you see the film and can say to whomever you are with – “We were right THERE. Right where they stood. Right where that scene was shot.”

And you’re forever connected to it.

Whenever we travel, I like to try and include a few film locations in our plans. So right now, I’m researching which KOAs we’ll be staying at this spring and summer – and where we can also enjoy a little Hollywood magic along the open road. If our paths happen to cross at a KOA, ask me what’s nearby – I may be able to help.

Northeastern Movie Locations

The Amityville Horror
112 Ocean Avenue
Amityville, New York
This much is true: On November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo murdered his mother, father, two brothers, and two sisters with a high-powered rifle in this, their Long Island home. In 1976, George and Kathleen Lutz, the new owners of the house, had begun spreading (and selling) a story around the country stating that ghosts and evil spirits had scared them out of the house they had recently purchased. And although the family’s versions of this story changed many times, the book called The Amityville Horror—A True Story became a #1 bestseller, and the movie The Amityville Horror was a box office smash.

400 East Saratoga Street (Corner of Holliday)
Baltimore, Maryland
The diner was actually shipped in from Oakland, New Jersey when director Barry Levinson needed a meeting place for his 1982 film about college students in 1959. Though it’s been relocated from where it was used in the film, it still remains in Baltimore (as the Hollywood Diner) and can be seen in two other Levinson productions, Tin Men and Avalon. It was also used in the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film Sleepless in Seattle, and television’s Homicide: Life on the Street.

The Exorcist
3600 Prospect Avenue
36th Street NW
Georgetown, Washington D.C.
Though the window of Reagan’s room was just a façade built for the movie, the rest of the house looks pretty much as it did in the 1973 horror film based on the book by William Peter Blithe. The interiors of the movie were shot in New York City at Ceco Studios, but you can see the set of stairs that Father Karras gets tossed down. They’re on the side of the house leading from Prospect Avenue to M Street.

When Harry Met Sally
Katz’s Deli
205 East Houston Street (at Ludlow)
New York, New York
Shot in many locales throughout New York and Chicago in 1989, the scene that “made the most noise” was the one where Meg Ryan demonstrated (quite credibly) the ease with which an orgasm can be faked. At the very table where the scene was shot, a plaque reads, “You are sitting at the table where Harry met Sally.”

Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School
3500 Hillen Road
Baltimore, Maryland
John Waters’ last vehicle for his star Divine (before it became a smash musical on Broadway), this comedy (also starring Ricki Lake) used this high school as its primary backdrop.

Good Will Hunting
Woody’s L Street Tavern
658 East 8th St # A South
Boston, Massachusetts
This is the unpretentious, local Irish bar made internationally famous after appearing in the Oscar-winning movie Good Will Hunting, which filmed several scenes here. The movie’s stars, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, are from nearby Cambridge, and they, along with co-star Robin Williams all hung out here quite a bit during the filming.

Mystic Pizza
Mystic Pizza
56 West Main Street
Mystic, Connecticut
The small Mystic Pizza restaurant caught the attention of screenwriter Amy Jones, who was vacationing in the seaport town of Mystic, Connecticut. Jones chose the pizzeria as the focus and setting for her story of the lives and loves of three young waitresses. The film “Mystic Pizza” was shot on location in 1988 in Mystic and other neighboring towns, but a set was built for the interiors as the actual Mystic Pizza restaurant was too small and could not close for months of filming.

Silence of the Lambs
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
In the 1991 thriller starring Jodie Foster, this is where her character (Clarice Starling) meets the notorious entomologist Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins). (Parts of Flashdance were also filmed here.) The place where Lecter escapes from his holding cell is the Allegheny County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, located at 4141 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh.

Forrest Gump
Marshall Point Lighthouse
Port Clyde, Maine
Forrest Gump’s marathon run takes him first to the Santa Monica pier in California and then wends its way here, to the Marshall Point Lighthouse near Point Clyde.

Philadelphia Museum of  Art
26th Avenue (at Benjamin Franklin Avenue)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The famous 68-step staircase still attracts people who make the flight and then thrust their arms in victory a la Rocky when they reach the top.

Midwestern Movie Locations

The Breakfast Club
9511 Harrison Street
Des Plaines, Illinois
This 1980’s teen angst classic was actually filmed at Illinois State Police Station (formerly, Maine North High School), located in Des Plaines, Illinois. The library where the majority of the film is set was built from scratch in the building’s former gymnasium. The high school had been closed for two years before the filming of the movie, and was used by the park district before the Illinois State Police bought it and turned it into a Police Station.

The Bridges of Madison County
Winterset, Iowa
Madison County is a real place in Iowa (it’s where John Wayne was born), and it’s where the famous bridges are located. Specifically, they’re in a place called Winterset (the place Meryl Streep visits to buy her new Frock), which is about 30 miles southwest of Des Moines on I-169. Of the original 19 bridges that were built and named after the closest resident, only 6 remain. In the movie, you can see the Roseman Bridge which was built in 1883 and the longest of the bridges, the Holliwell Bridge.

Field of Dreams
28963 Lansing Road
Dyersville, Iowa
“If you build it, they will come,” the voice in the movie promised. The off-screen narration may have been referring to baseball legends, but today it’s tourists who flock to play on the very site where Kevin Costner’s 1989 movie was filmed. You can run the bases, play catch, bat—even just sit in the bleachers and dream of simpler days. The house is also open to visitors. And of course, so is the cornfield.

Home Alone
671 Lincoln Avenue
Winnetka, Illinois
This was the MacAllister home where Macaulay Culkin outsmarted a pair of bumbling burglars in 1990’s Home Alone. Not far from the home is the mall where he met Santa Claus—Winnetka Village Hall, 501 Green Bay Road.

Knightstown Hoosier Gym
355 N. Washington Street
Knightstown, Indiana
The movie Hoosiers recounted the thrilling 1954 Boy’s State Basketball Championship between powerhouse Muncie Central and tiny Milan High School. The smallest team in history to win the state title, Milan was victorious with a heart-stopping last second shot by Bobby Plump. The Knightstown Hoosier Gym where the team (the fictitious Hickory High) played its home games in the movie is located in the quaint town of Knightsbridge. Today, after-school programs allow youths to play basketball in the gym, and church basketball leagues use it as well.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
4300 Glumack Drive
Minneapolis, MN
1970’s Airport starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin and George Kennedy was the first of the true celebrity-infused disaster movies. Though interiors for the movie were shot at Universal Studios in Hollywood, a real Boeing 707 was actually landed in a snowstorm here for the movie’s most intense sequences.

The Shawshank Redemption
Ohio State Reformatory
Mansfield, Ohio
This 1880’s landmark (closed as a prison in 1990) now offers “Ghost tours’ of its gothic grounds. It also served as “Shawshank State Prison,” Maine in the 1994 Tim Robbins film, The Shawshank Redemption. The moving, uplifting film (based on a novella by Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) is widely held as one of the finest of the 1990’s.

The Color Of Money
6615 West Roosevelt Road
Berwyn, Illinois
Martine Scorcese’s 1986 follow-up to the 1961’s The Hustler starred Paul Newman reprising his role as Fast Eddie Felson.  Shot at many different joints around Illinois, we first see Newman notice the up and comer played by Tom Cruise here at FitzGerald’s, as Cruise trounces John Turturro. FitzGerald’s, a classic pool hall built in 1915, was also featured in the film, A League of Their Own.

Gran Torino
Detroit, Michigan
Clint Eastwood’s hit revolved around the story of cranky Walt Kowalski finding an developing a relationship with the Hmong community. It was set in Minneapolis, but shot in the Motor City. Kowalski’s home was located just outside Detroit at 238 Rhode Island Street, between Oakland Parkway and Brush Street (please respect the privacy of the homeowners).

Western Movie Locations

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Devils Tower
Black Hills National Forest, Wyoming
Directions: Devils Tower is situated just 9 miles south of Hulett, Wyoming, 24 miles west of Aladdin, Wyoming, and 27 miles northwest of Sundance, Wyoming.
Devil’s Tower was declared the first U.S. National Monument in 1906. Part of an extinct volcano, it became a pop culture icon after aliens used it as the supposed landing site in the 1977 Steven Spielberg film. Three miles from the entrance, there’s a visitor center that’s open from April–October.

Easy Rider
Bryans Gallery
121 Kit Carson Road
Taos, New Mexico
This is the jail cell where Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda meet up with Jack Nicholson in the counter-culture 1969 road picture, Easy Rider. Though the exterior of the jail is in Las Vegas (at 157 Bridge Street), the interior still exists in Taos, New Mexico. Today, it’s an art gallery located in the town square. A plaque describes the building’s history.

7121 Lonzo Street
Tujunga, California
This is the house used as Elliot’s home in Steven Spielberg’s classic 1982 film, E.T. Situated in the hills of the Tujunga Valley, northeast of the San Fernando Valley, it’s located at the end of a cul de sac and can be easily recognized by the familiar mountain peak behind it.

The Shining
Timberline Lodge
Route 26
Portland, Oregon (60 miles east)
This lodge was used for the exterior shots of the Overlook Hotel in the creepy 1980 Kubrick-directed film of the Stephen King novel. However, the movie was shot almost entirely in studios in England.

Gros Ventre Road (just west of Kelly)
Grand Teton National Park
Near Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This was the actual cabin used in the 1951 George Stevens classic western about a mysterious stranger who turns up to aid a family of homesteaders. The film starred Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur, and closed famously with Ladd riding off into the Teton as young Brandon de Wilde yelled, “Shane!”

Austin Powers
3535 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, Nevada
Mike Meyers’ 1997 hip spy spoof, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, featured Vegas as prominently as any film ever. (Remember how pretty the glittering Strip looked in the scene where Burt Bacharach serenades Meyers and Elizabeth Hurley atop the red double-decker bus?) The many casino interiors for Austin Powers were shot at the Riviera Hotel and Casino and for Alotta Fagina’s penthouse, they used this, the Oriental-themed Imperial Palace.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
479 Main Ave.
Durango, Colorado
Remember in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where Butch and the gang attempt to blow open the train’s safe and instead, blow up the entire mail car, sending money all over the place? Supposedly, the force of the blast even caught the special-effect technicians, who went overboard with the gunpowder. Here at this great historic railway station you can see the actual train hey blew up, and even take a ride on it. About 10 miles east of Durango is a plaque commemorating where they shot the scene—ask at the station for directions.

Lehi Roller Mills
833 East Main Street
Lehi, Utah
In 1906, George G. Robinson founded Lehi Mill with a simple philosophy: “Only the best wheat makes the best flour.” Wonder if he knew it would also be the site of a popular 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon. After all, Lehi Roller Mills is where Kevin Bacon worked in the film Footloose and also where the famous dance at the end of the film took place.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
4160 Country Club Drive
Long Beach, California
In the1987 smash comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this is the Bueller’s main home. It’s featured at many times throughout the film, from the very first shot to the very end. It’s right here where Ferris plays sick to get a day off school. Right here where the school principal ends up in a confrontation with Ferris’ sister (after coming over to try and Bust Ferris). And right here where Ferris races back in the end. Interestingly, the rest of the movie was shot in Chicago.

The Sandlot
Midvale, Utah
1993’s excellent movie The Sandlot is ranked by many purists as one of the best movies ever about baseball. The story of a young boy who moves to a new town and wants to learn about baseball from the local group of players, several key scenes were shot along Main Street here in the community of Midvale, Utah. The field shots were done in Bountiful, Utah and Rose Park, Utah. (Bountiful is just north of Salt Lake City and Rose Park is actually within Salt Lake City.)

True Grit
Ridgeway, Colorado
In 1969,  John Wayne teamed with Glen Campbell and Kim Darby to make one of his most famous films, True Grit. The town of Ridgeway becomes Fort Smith in the movie, and nearby is the ranch where Wayne jumps his horse over a river. Ridgeway still has a True Grit Cafe, full of John Wayne memorabilia, located at 123 North Lena.

Dances With Wolves
South Dakota
Kevin Costner’s classic western epic was shot in large part near the Triple U Standing Butte Ranch, now called Triple U Buffalo Ranch, 26314 Tatanka Road in Stanley County outside Pierre, on Route 14.

Napoleon Dynamite
Preston, Idaho
Director Jared Hess hails from Preston and this is where he shot his famously dry film about teen angst. A few of the sites include Preston High School, 151 East 200 South; the tether-ball court the playground is at 525 South 400 East Street, Pedro’s house is at 59 South 2nd East,  and the chicken farm is actually the Ritewood Egg Co, located at South 4000 East.

An Officer and a Gentleman
Tides Inn
1807 Water Street
Port Townsend, Washington
This was the place where Richard Gere and Debra Winger spent their romantic night together, in Room 10 to be exact. Naturally, it’s called the “Officer and a Gentleman” room. The Tides Inn is reachable from Seattle by ferry across the Puget Sound, and the area also features some other recognizable locations from the movie.  Also,  Fort Worden State Park, the “base” in the movie, is a restored former coastal artillery army base on Port Townsend’s Olympic Peninsula. It is located at 200 Battery Way, Port Townsend.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Oregon State Mental Hospital
Salem, Oregon (about 50 miles south of Portland)
The 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher (who both won Oscars for their roles as R.P. McMurphy and Nurse Fletcher, respectively), was shot almost entirely on location at the Oregon State Mental Hospital in Salem. Dean Brooks, the hospital’s actual superintendent, played the film’s psychiatrist. Recently, it was named one of the twenty greatest films by the American Film Institute, and remains only one of three films to sweep the top five categories at the Oscars (the other two are It Happened One Night and The Silence of the Lambs.)

Moab, Utah
Since 1949, the beautiful Moab area has been a very place place for Hollywood to come make movie magic.  From John Wayne classics to City Slickers II, and Mission Impossible II – Thelma and Louise even took their famous final leap into the Colorado River from along the Shafer Trail under Dead Horse Point near Moab.  Numerous commercials, and more recently music videos, have been filmed here. Local maps are available if you care to explore the dozens of locations in the area.

Bathgate, North Dakota
Though the city boasts many locations from the offbeat 1996 classic, a popular one is the the Paul Bunyan statue, located west of Bathgate, North Dakota on Highway 1.

4267 Roxbury Street (north of Walnut, between Rachel Avenue and Tapo Street)
Simi Valley, California
This is the house where the Freeling’s lived in the 1982 Steven Spielberg film, Poltergeist. (No, the house is not actually built upon an old burial ground.) The ordinary, suburban neighborhood served as the backdrop for the modern day ghost story about a tract home that suddenly becomes a gateway for enraged ghosts.

Raiders of the Los Ark
University of the Pacific
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, California
Of course, much of Spielberg’s 1981 gem was shot all over the world—Kauai, France, England, Tunisia, etc. However, this is the location of the classroom where Harrison Ford teaches archaeology.

Southern Movie Locations

Forest Gump
Chippewa Square
Intersection of Bull and McDonough Streets
Savannah, Georgia
This lovely southern city has many squares, but this is the one made famous by the musing Tom Hanks character in the 1994 film that earned him his second Best Actor Oscar. The bench was placed there especially for the movie, and though it’s since been removed, there’s another one nearby where you can sit and talk to strangers.

Dazed and Confused
Bedichek Middle School
6800 Bill Hughes Road
Austin, Texas
Richard Linklater’s 1993 spot-on nostalgic homage to high school life in the mid 1970’s was centered here at this real high school in Austin, the director’s hometown. The movie featured early performances by (among others) Matthew McConaughey (his first movie), Parker Posie and Ben Affleck.

Remember the Titans
Druid Hills High School
1798 Haygood Drive
Atlanta, Georgia
Disney’s inspirational film from 2000 starring Denzel Washington was based on real events that took place in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971. The story deals with the challenges surrounding integration of black and white students at T. C. Williams High School, in particular within the football team (Washington played the coach). The school that was primarily used in the film is Druid Hills. However, the school has no stadium or football field, so the football scenes were shot at Berry College, located at 2277 Martha Berry Highway NW, in Mount Berry, Georgia.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Talladega Superspeedway
Easaboa, Alabama
Adam McKay’s comedy starring Will Ferrell about a NASCAR driver trying to stay ahead of the pack was. Of course, shot at Talladega Superspeedway, located at 5200 Speedway Blvd. in Eastaboga.

Terms of Endearment
3068 Locke Lane
Houston, Texas
This was where Jack Nicholson’s character lived in the 1983 tearjerker also starring Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine, at 3068 Locke Lane in the Avalon district of Houston (please respect the privacy of the homeowners).

Coal Miner’s Daughter
Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, Tennessee
Sissy Spacek performed at the famed Ryman Auditorium of Grand Ol’ Opry fame in this 1989 classic about the life of country legend Loretta Lynn.

Canadian Movie Locations

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The primary zoo scenes were shot at the ruins of the old Vancouver Zoo in Stanley Park, a popular 1,000-acre area near downtown Vancouver.  As well, the ‘ape enclosure’ was shot at the Old Polar Bear Den, located just south of the Vancouver Aquarium on Avison Way.

A Christmas Story
The bulk of this holiday classic was shot in the Midwest, but interestingly, the ‘Bo Ling Chop Suey Palace’, where the family is seen enjoying Christmas dinner after the neighborhood dogs steal the turkey, is located in Canada. Today, it’s the French restaurant Batifole, 744 Gerrard Street East in Chinatown.

The 1988 flick about bartending starring Tom Cruise was set in New York, a lot of it was shot in New York, however, there were several Toronto locations including Soupy’s Tavern (now Stoopy’s), located at 376 Dundas East, and Lee’s Palace, located at 529 Bloor West.

The Aviator
The popular 2004 from  Martin Scorcese, though shot around Los Angeles, had much of its studio filming done in Montreal at Mel’s Cité du Cinema.

The well-done comic book adaptation was shot almost entirely in Ontario, including the old Gooderham and Worts Distillery, on Mill Street toward the Toronto waterfront. This large warehouse complex has been seen in many other films including Chicago, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Three Men and a Baby.

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